The Lafayette Charter Commission will move toward its April 2011 conclusion with the goal of formulating two options for governance in Lafayette Parish that will go before voters in a parishwide referendum in either the fall of 2011 or, more likely, spring of 2012.
Based on reports in today’s Advertiser
— The Independent Weekly
goes to press on Monday evenings, consequently attending commission meetings is hit-or-miss for us; last night was miss — those two options are: 1) the creation of a separate council and mayor for the city of Lafayette while maintaining a consolidation of services such as drainage and roads between the city and unincorporated parts of the parish; 2) maintain Lafayette Consolidated Government but amend the charter in yet-to-be determined ways in order to address issues like governance of Lafayette Utilities System.
“We have to address LUS,” Commissioner Bruce Conque said Tuesday morning. “That would be at the top of the list.”
Currently, the Lafayette Home Rule Charter stipulates that the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority — the five City-Parish Council members whose districts are at least 60 percent within the city of Lafayette — is the sole governing authority for LUS. But because the other four council members each represent some city residents who would be disenfranchised if their council representative was prevented from voting on matters pertaining to the city-owned and -operated public utility, the full nine-member council also votes on things like LUS rate hikes, even though they’re not granted authority to do so in the charter.
Conque said that the commission will offer Lafayette voters at least two choices in the parishwide referendum — the aforementioned creation of separate city and parish council, and the less drastic option of tweaking the charter. Conque added that creation of a separate commission composed only of city residents to act as the governing authority for LUS would almost certainly be in that second option, among other things.
The commission was sworn in and began its weekly meetings in August. It soon became evident that most of the commissioners who are city residents want to see the city of Lafayette achieve some type of sovereignty. There has been some tension evident at the meetings among the five city commissioners and the four commission members who live in unincorporated Lafayette Parish, but the momentum the last few weeks has been toward creation of autonomy for the city of Lafayette through the creation of its own council and mayor.
One fly in the ointment has been Commissioner Don Bacque, a city resident who remains steadfastly — stubbornly, it might be argued — opposed to any major changes to the current form of government.